Old Time Hockey is a mixture between arcade hockey and emulating the film Slapshot. The game takes its style from the great NHL 94. While also throwing a gritty old school paint job on it too. Not to mention, it adds hockey players who look like they came from a disco hall. There’s also the cheesy local announcer to boot. Although, it has all the makings of hitting that nostalgia mark. The problem is, the game misses the goal like a Fulton Reed slapshot.
Old Time Hockey Review
Title: Old Time Hockey
Platform: PC, Playstation 4 [Reviewed]
Developer: V7 Entertainment
Publisher: V7 Entertainment
Players: 1-4 (Local Only)
Release Date: March 28, 2017
There are two modes in Old Time Hockey, exhibition and story mode. Exhibition is what you expect. Pick your team, and get right into the action. While The Story mode follows the Schuylkill Hinto Brews, a team who’s in last place, has lost it’s best three players, and faces losing the brewery it’s named after. The player works their way through a full season in hopes of going from the bottom to the playoffs.
The problem is, the season winds up feeling like a long tutorial mission. Mainly because, most skills are locked until they are learned in-game. Making it very confusing as to why the controls don’t respond in performing certain actions you’d expect in a hockey game. Wanna perform a slapshot? Perhaps you’d like to hip-check that defender? Well, too bad you have to unlock those. During the season, a new skill prompt appears seemingly at random times. When said skill appears, you are then tasked with performing a certain quantity of the new skill in-game to actually unlock it. If this seems absurd to you, its because it is.
Compounding the issue, is a pop-up menu, which appears every time you touch the puck. It tries to remind you about performing the skill, but really is just annoying. At one point, the game asked me to perform a “protect the puck” move, which is a skill that only unlocks when the A.I. swipes at the puck. By having the correct button pressed, you can then protect the puck from being taken away. The problem is, the A.I. never swiped at the puck for an entire game! So, literally I spent my time watching the pop-up menu freeze gameplay, more than actually playing the game. Every single time a Hinto Brews player touched the puck, the pop-up menu appeared to drive me insane.
Wide of the Net
This is where Old Time Hockey misses the mark in a huge way. The developers put a lot more time in everything around the rink, and much less time on making the game fun to play. This is made worse by its lack of modes. Having throw away exhibition games, and a story mode where winning does not matter, makes it difficult to care about when you do in the game.
Objective based gameplay works in many games, but removing the gratification of winning from a sports game feels weird. You could lose 7-0 but progress, because you reached the set line of three slapshots made. Then turn around and win 3-0, but be forced to replay the game because you did not stun three opposing players.
Story mode would have been an interesting aside, but as the only main game mode, it falls completely flat. You never feel invested in Hinto Brews or their issues. The only interaction you have with the team is in loading screens and newspaper clippings that detail the issues of the team. An online mode could have helped alleviate some of this.
The gameplay also contradicts its premise. The game promises fast paced arcade style fun. However, it’s actually a slow and stiff mess. The main controls are over complicated, taking a page from EA’s National Hockey League franchise. Allowing you to deke and spin around to quickly move down the ice. Luckily, there is a simple button mode that allows the game to feel more like a SNES control scheme. However, this is only available in Exhibition Mode, along with a one-handed Beer mode. In story mode, you have to use the more complicated controls.
No matter which control scheme you use, the players are rather unresponsive. The players feel like they fight every move you make. Taking their time to turn into position, and feeling like they are skating on sandpaper.
The graphics during the gameplay have an interesting gritty feel and old Nintendo 64 type vibe. There also some nice graphics that pop-up during the game that show the arcadey feel the game was going for. Even birds fly over players heads after they have been knocked down and stunned on the ice.
The atmosphere in Old Time Hockey is the selling point. The players are almost lifted straight out of your local 1970’s community center hockey league. Many players don’t wear helmets, and the facial hair styles are on point. Unfortunately, like most of the game, the variety of characters is very lacking. You do play in half filled small ice rinks that feel absolutely perfect.
The music fits the game’s theme as well. Lots of old tunes play on a piano organ during the game. You can even hear the Addams Family theme from time to time. The Hockey Song by Stomp’n Tom Conner is the show stealer here. It fits the game perfectly. You could almost call it the highpoint of Old Time Hockey.
Something else that stands out, is the commentator. During the game, he has a wonderful community college feel to him. He sounds awkward at times, as he over emphasizes words at the wrong time and stumbles over himself. It’s charming, in that he fits that local hockey scene. Sadly, he gets repetitive rather quickly, after about the first game. You’ll hear him yell “OH!” 15-20 times each game.
Gritty old school feel
The Hockey Song by Stomp’n Tom Conner
Announcer is charming
Lack of game modes
Story mode is a frustrating tutorial
Gameplay is stiff and hard to control
Overall Thoughts: 4.5 Out of 10: Old Time Hockey tries hard at being a fun arcade game with a gritty tone. However, it actually missed the net and hit the vendor in the 15th row. The style is there, but the gameplay is not. The severe lack of modes also hurt the game as well. Ultimately, Old Time Hockey suffers from having it’s focus in the wrong place. Delivering style outside the rink and little substance on the ice.